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Friday, February 20, 2009

Fund Mergers Trigger Head-Scratching

by: Armie Margaret Lee

Hartford is folding three small specialty funds into a more diversified fund, a move that a Morningstar analyst has labeled "bizarre." Hartford plans to merge the Global Communications, Global Financial Services and Global Technology funds, each with less than $30 million, into the $13 million Hartford Global Equity fund.

"The decision to fuse funds with such different objectives is perplexing and will not necessarily serve shareholders well," Katie Rushkewicz wrote in Morningstar's Fund Times column. "In order to minimize tax implications, the diversified Global Equity fund may be forced to hang on to some of the specialized financial and tech stocks for a while, which could interfere with the fund's strategy."

She said liquidating the sector funds may have been better for shareholders.

A spokesperson for Hartford was not immediately available for comment to The MFWire.

In the column, Rushkewicz also said that fund reorganizations at ING -- Global Science and Technology merging into MidCap Opportunities, and Growth and Income acquiring Financial Services and Fundamental Research -- "don't seem very logical from a shareholder's perspective."

Commenting on the column, Andy Simonoff, vice president and head of product at ING Investment Management, said the merger was the best option.

"It looking to exit sector funds, we looked at all our options," Simonoff told The MFWire in a phone interview. "Merging sector funds into each other was not logical. Liquidating the funds, which are used in 401(k) plans, raises a number of legal and technical issues. A merger was the best option."

Simonoff said the sector funds were merged into broader equity funds with "stronger performance and lower expenses." Those sectors, he pointed out, represented a significant underlying component of the broader funds. 

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